How's That "Do No Evil" Coming Along?
A company that proclaims as its motto "Do No Evil" invites a certain amount of scrutiny from socially responsible investors. Google is finding out that it is hard to live up to. Let's take a look.
The KLD "Pass" Database, which is one of the widely used research tools for the SRI community shows "diversity" as a "concern". Otherwise, it passes as an otherwise socially positive company. I, personally, believe they need to do more work on it, especially now that Google has shown its willingness to be in bed with the Chinese government.
This week, Google caved in to demands from the Chinese government to censor its search listings. To be fair, Google was the last holdout on this point among its competitors in the search space. Their defense was that a "little bit of freedom" is better than none at all, considering that the Chinese government had within its power to block the service altogether.
Another troubling story emanating from Google this week entails a refusal by the company to hand over search data to the feds. The feds claimed a need to have the data to combat child pornography and enforce laws dealing with the same problem. Most civil libertarians would say the company did the right thing.
Truthfully, I am surprised that the media has not made more of the fact that Google and Yahoo must now be the largest beneficiaries of the global pornography industry. How do we know this? Check out Wordtracker's list of the top 1,000 searches without the adult filter on. Fully one half of the top 1000 searches (accounting for five percent of all searches) are for porn-related terms. Seven of the top 10 were porn related (six if you think all the searches for "paris hilton" were from "Simple Life" fans and not from the fans of her well-publicized sex tape). Jennifer Aniston appears twice in the top 1,000. Twenty two percent of the searches for Jennifer Aniston were in the term "Jennifer Aniston naked" (13,132), as opposed to "Jennifer Aniston" (44,354).
Many of the searches are clearly conducted by those seeking illegal pornography, including "preteen" (#31), "incest" (#56), "lolita" (#61), "teen girls" (#71), and "preteen models" (#77).
Both major search engines serve PPC ads along side these terms.
The companies themselves would have to release data telling us what the click to impression ratio would be, but I would bet that the price of these keywords is more than average. This means that a significant portion of their revenue is derived from those selling pornography.
In our business of socially responsible investment advisory, we are careful to never pass judgment on the moral correctness of anybody's social criteria. However, if a company is willing to proclaim its virtue in its company motto, I would expect it to cover its bases more carefully.